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Making Sense of the Past

I took my first piano lesson in twenty years.  In that lesson, I relayed to her a story I might have mentioned here.  How there was a masterclass in my college thirty years ago, I went up on stage, and played just a few bars of a Mozart sonata.  She stopped me, said “you have no idea what the music’s about”, and sent me off the stage.

Now…  at the time, I thought she was right.  To a degree, I still do.  It took me twenty years or so to understand that she was right, I didn’t.  But no one ever was able to really explain to me what that meant.  What does “knowing what the music’s about” really mean?

But my new teacher said something interesting that kind of blew my mind.  She said, essentially, that that was out of line.  That that teacher was bitter and shouldn’t have said that.

Well… she was the same teacher that taught my teacher, you know, the one who thought you could make a piano vibrato by wiggling the keys (you can’t on a stock piano, and a fancy doctorate doesn’t somehow mean you can).

I’ve thought a lot of things over the years, and had many regrets, some of which rise to the level of PTSD flashbacks.  I always blamed myself for everything.  I know I was very emotionally closed off at the time, I was very immature (even by college student standards) and really had no business being in such a socially intensive environment and major as piano performance.  It just wasn’t a good fit and I was a fool to think I was.

But it had never occurred to me until last week that I might actually have been getting a bad education.

Am I saying that the faculty at that crappy Northwest Ohio college was incompetent on its face?  No.  They all had degrees which should have at least indicated a basic level of competence, and did in most cases.  It’s really hard to fake skill at music too, like you can in other majors, like, say business, for example.  You’re either competent or you aren’t.

But just because you’re a competent musician doesn’t make you a good teacher.

Maybe if I’d had the right teacher, they could have reached me.

Not holding my breath – I was pretty damn unreachable at the time – but maybe.

I’ve been looking back on my college education over the past week, and realizing that they weren’t the right teachers for me, and I would have been better off being somewhere else.  I just didn’t realize it.

This is a fascinating realization, the realization that it, just maybe, wasn’t entirely my fault.

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